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Death, injury and other workplace violations against migrant workers – A sector level analysis

Nov 27, 2020 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm (AEDT GMT+11:00)


Associate Professor Anna Boucher
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney


In 2009, a group of migrant workers were working on a construction site in downtown Toronto, rushing to complete a project before Christmas. Unharnessed, they fell from a swing stage, and four were instantly killed. A fifth was rendered quadriplegic. The owner of the company, Metron Construction, sustained a large civil fine. However, after considerable protest, one manager received a prison sentence for industrial manslaughter. Subsequent government inquiries revealed endemic safety concerns in the construction sector in Toronto. This presentation explores the issue of workplace violations committed against migrant workers and the particular risks to body and mind posed by the sector of employment. Alongside qualitative interviews with police and unionists involved in the Metron case, it also presents findings from a new Migrant Worker Rights Database that develops an innovative method to trace the nature and extent of migrant worker rights violations on the ground. It tracks violations in 907 published cases brought by such workers before courts and tribunals in Australia, Canada (Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario), the State of California and England over a twenty-year period (1996 through to 2016). Drawing upon these data, the presentation demonstrates that injury and sector of employment are correlated: occupations viewed as low or semi-skilled are more likely to see actions for such infringements and this is particularly the case in the Province of Ontario. The qualitative data from the Metron case also reveals some of the particular challenges faced by migrant workers in bringing claims around workplace injury and for the police in prosecuting related crimes.


Associate Professor Anna Boucher is an immigration expert. Anna has expertise in the areas of skilled immigration, labour market, immigration policy, immigration and population data, gender and race discrimination and refugee and asylum flows. The Australian government, civil society and numerous international agencies have consulted her on these topics. Anna is an Associate Professor in Public Policy and Comparative Politics in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Anna is also a founding member of the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre. Anna holds degrees in Law, Political Science and German from the University of Sydney and Political Science and Research Methods from the London School of Economics, where she was an Australian Commonwealth Scholar and Zeit Ebelin-Bucerius Scholar in Migration Studies.

The webinar is hosted by the University of Sydney Business School’s Sydney Employment Relations Research Group (SERRG) and the Migrants@Work Research Group.